Child protection plan faces IT difficulties

Local authorities and other bodies face severe technical difficulties in meeting government demands that they share information...

Local authorities and other bodies face severe technical difficulties in meeting government demands that they share information on vulnerable children.

The government's green paper on making information more easily available to help prevent child abuse and reduce child crime, said a file should be kept on every child in England.

The Local Government Association welcomed the move but a spokeswoman said a computer-based system would not immediately be possible. "In the short-term we would expect such a system to be paper-based, as local authorities face all sorts of IT integration issues," she said.

Kate Mountain, chief executive of local government IT managers' body Socitm, said, "I think a file-sharing system between local government agencies and bodies such as the police has got to come. But how far along the way to achieving this local authorities are is another question."

Socitm Consulting's principal business consultant, Steven Howes, said, "In London, we have already explored the use of the NHSnet system to allow local authorities, the police, and other bodies to get secure access to such a file-sharing system, but a front-end solution at every council is another matter altogether."

Howes said the various bodies had a variety of commercial database mining technologies at their disposal, but funding, training, access controls, and the potential duplication of data would be the main problems.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education and Skills said local authorities would each be given £100,000 to help share data between agencies.

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